Book Reviews: Graphic Novel Edition

“You’re invited to take me to dinner,” she smirked.
With that attitude, I graciously declined; her reaction was priceless.

So this week it’s all graphic novels, and because they’re quicker to read there’s more of them.

Invisible Republic Volume 1
You know the authors have a lot of confidence when they open with a hero shot of a couple standing on an asteroid.
On a distant planet a totalitarian government has fallen, and an intrepid reporter is out to figure out how it all happened. No one cares to help him; everyone’s too poor to waste their time on this stuff. But by sheer coincidence he comes across the memoirs of the one person who knew the dictator best, at least in his early days. From there we go to flashback, interspaced with more of the reporter.
The story actually follows a woman who was with the future bad guy, who from her looks and clothes appears to be of Australian descent. In the first incident she shows her moral courage, which of course pisses off her cousin the bad guy, and from there we see her survive on the street and then be taken in by a co-op of beekeeper honeymakers, because one of them felt guilty about almost killing her.
The artwork is well done but bleak—monochrome, sepia—which fits the bleak world portrayed. There wasn’t all that much story or character development, but I assume there’s more to come, since it ends with the title character appearing in the present.
The extras are well done, including the history of bees and the problems of interstellar travel. But in the end it’s only an intro, so don’t expect a full story.

Some badass female fights a bunch of soldiers, then climbs a wall—a very high wall—but is still darted and falls into the ocean. So of course I immediately thought of Aeon Flux. . . the cartoons, not the movie. (Don’t get me started on Charlize’s poor choices. . .)
During that chase there’s one small panel of a woman with a cello, which intrigued me. The other thing that kept me interested is that it took 18 pages for words to show up, at which point we find out the totalitarian regime that says they’re protecting their citizens by making a wall no one can escape over is called the Origami, as poetic a name as you’ll ever find for such a group.
“You don’t believe there’s a threat?”
“I don’t believe the threat is coming from outside.”
Finally we meet the main character, a former soldier with a special skillset that makes her in demand; later it’s said she was a sniper who had a crisis of conscience. The rest of the story concerns some high-ranked officials trying to capture her, and her barely escaping over and over. Every issue starts with a flashback; little by little we see what brought her not just to this position but the enmity of the general. Her ultimate goal seems to be too simple, which is actually the best quote: “One day things will be different for me. I just need to make it to that day.”
The hook for the sequel has the heroine saying, “Now I’m pissed,” but without the rest of the story it feels like a waste of time. Most of the last half rambles on, especially the middle section, which contains a far-too-long piece where Rain, the main character, is getting drunk or whatever they do in this dystopian future. Ditto when the commandos deploy to the bar to get Rain. From there it’s all about her trying to escape, barely managing it time and again, impressionistically drawn—some places unclear as to what I’m supposed to be seeing, more artsy than narrative—but not very eye-catching.
I’m just glad I found out what the girl with the cello was about. . .

The Tithe Volume 1
This story opens in a megachurch in Irvine, so I’m already liking the blasphemy. . . er, satire.
From there the plot follows a small group of “terrorists” who steal from the gigantic churches, and the FBI agents after them. The supposed bad guys are led by a fantastic character, someone we can identify with as far as her convictions, though definitely not her skills. She wants to bring down the churches because they steal from the poor, and are often committing crimes as well, but at the same time she’s got a much bigger moral compass than those she’s stealing from, those self-proclaimed bastions of righteousness; Robin Hood indeed. Of course there’s always a point where things go south, and though I kinda saw the last twist coming, it still provided an excellent closing, even with more to come someday.
It’s interesting to see the two FBI guys with such different viewpoints, especially toward religion. Not exactly Mulder and Scully, though; the highly religious older black man makes no concessions, while his younger partner, who has a history as a hacker, is much more sympathetic. One of those cases where both sides have points, but not enough to change a mind.
The artwork was good enough, but it’s really the story that’s the big thing here. I’d certainly want to be on Samaritan’s side, for more than one reason.
Almost a third is taken up by extras: some character sketches and alternate covers, but mostly where the author got the idea, with plenty of link to religious scandals. There’s even some letters from the public, followed by a 20-page preview of another series that annoyed me a bit.

Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars
On a planet far off in space, an alien machine parks in orbit and threatens a beautiful futuristic civilization; nice to see a future that isn’t Dystopian in a graphic novel. But that was just the prologue, as ten years later we’re on a mining moon, where everyone’s dead except a boy, who’s just woken up and wondering where his mom and brother are amongst all the bodies, which makes it look like the dead planet on Serenity.
Because of that I wondered if the boy knew he was a robot, but that was a red herring; he’s well aware. So he and his dog/robot companion, a la Muffy from Battlestar Galactica—aka Bandit aka Yappy-Bot—look around for anything alive.
At the same time a robotics expert is drafted by a redheaded captain—remember, it’s Telsa, not Tesla—to go looking for the boy bot before mercenaries can nab him, thinking he has something to do with the attack a decade before. After getting shot the kid bot is in some kind of droid purgatory which lasts for quite a bit. The best character might be the drilling robot, who comes up with lines like, “Gladiator bots! Oil will be spilled!” And on the back cover there a shot of little Tim totally channeling Luke Skywalker about to climb into his x-wing.
All in all this was a pretty good story, with fun though flawed characters. If there’s a way to describe the artwork, I would go with bright watercolor. As one would expect there’s a hook for more to come, and after that there’s a small lexicon of planets, but that’s all the extras. But it doesn’t really need anything else, being a complete and well-drawn-out story.

Jem and the Holograms: Showtime
An all-girl rock band with a cute redhead lefty keytarist has a lead singer with stage fright; you can see how that would be a problem. Luckily Dad left them a music-infused AI that turns the singer into a hologram—they do notice the irony with the band name—and allows her to perform in a battle of the bands video competition against an established group, almost all of whom seem rather entitled and serve well as bad guys.
“Was dad a superhero? Was he that iron guy?”
I am loving the humor here. The redhead is a hoot of an airhead; they even have her doing a happy dance that’s hilarious. At one point she goes to wake up one of the others and gets shoes thrown at her, which inspires her to shout, “You will eventually run out of shoes, Aja!” She also falls in love with her counterpart on the more famous band, inspiring a Juliet/Juliet storyline.
The others members of the rival band are either entirely apathetic or downright evil. Trying to kill The Holograms seems over the top, though they could blame it on their deranged manager/fan. They do have motorcycles shaped like guitars, which is beyond awesome, so they’re not completely horrible. There is a hilarious pie fight, but the pillow fight was over after the first blow, just a tease.
The artwork is just as bright as the humor. This is one of the few graphic novels I’ve read where I’d like to read the continuation, especially since it ends in a cliffhanger. Definitely the best of this group of books.

The Infinite Loop
Oh good! A snarky redhead. They know me so well. And she’s a time traveler. And of course she doesn’t care for love. This is the second gorgeous redhead of the week, and both are gay; I have horrible luck even with fictional women.
I’m not going to attempt to explain this plot, because as you would expect with time travel stories, you really can’t. But I will say that, for such a complicated time-travel storyline, I had no difficulty following it. I’ve read plenty of plots recently where with a much simpler premise I couldn’t say the same, although it seems strange for the Unit 70 asses to kill people for no reason, since it’s likely to alter the timeline.
More than anything else, there’s an undercurrent of snarky humor that often takes you by surprise. The flow charts are hilarious; the tough bad guys do pinky swears. A cute bad girl gets her head chopped off by a t-rex just as she was making a joke about extinction. Someone gets called a mushy unicorn lover. There’s even a perfectly appropriate Star Trek reference. But the best line has to be: “Those are some shitty choices. Like having to decide between Beiber and Kanye.”
Not sure I understood the conclusion, unless there was no conclusion and it’s gonna continue. Still, I enjoyed it more than most. My second favorite of this group, behind the one with the other redhead.

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Down Town
Heard plenty about the Dresden Files, never read them. Good wizard keeping Chicago safe from fantastical creatures, in a nutshell. This is a new story in the series, so I didn’t feel like I was left out because I didn’t know the backstory. He does have a padewan—his own word—and a semi-ghost dog, or something. Plus the nasty talking skull.
Basically a new big bad comes to town and makes what turns out to be a Golem to terrorize the villagers of Chicago’s south side. The local mob boss takes offense and thinks he can beat magical creatures, which of course complicates things for Dresden.
Probably the most realistic art, and therefore my favorite, I’ve seen; I haven’t read graphic novels very long, but this artwork is amazing. There are some exquisite. . . human form drawings, to be as subtle as I can make it; the blonde in the nightclub is particularly noteworthy, though all women are drawn stunningly.
The big extras are the character sketches and the rough line art for every page of the first issue.
The story was fine, but it’s the characters that shine the most.


One thought on “Book Reviews: Graphic Novel Edition

  1. Pingback: 15 Fave Books of 2015 | LoganBruin–An Unauthorized Autobiography

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